Edited by Kaitlin Campos
This season has certainly seen a lot of endings in these reviews, whether it’s in the form of comics like B.P.R.D. or The Massive that I’ve just given up on reviewing, or stuff more in line with today’s issue of finality Kiss Me, Satan which is concluding its run with issue 5. In case you haven’t been following the series, it revolves around a coven of witches in New Orleans who stumble on some dark secret about the local werewolf mafia don, Cassian Steele (get used to the goofy names; it’s sort of a running joke.) To keep his secret safe, Cassian puts out a hit on the coven, which attracts every mystical bounty hunter in the south looking for a piece of the action, as well as attracting a body guard for the girls in the form of Barnabus Black. I reviewed Kiss Me, Satan #2-4 and really enjoyed them for the most part, though issue 4 began sort of a notable stumbling for the story, and, sadly, that continues into the finale.
Bit of spoilers here for the previous issue twists, even though I feel confident in assuming no one plans on jumping on the series with Kiss Me, Satan #5— but still my editors say to throw up spoiler warnings, so consider them up. The previous issue featured a major format change in Kiss Me, Satan, with the focus shifting to Barnabus Black and away from the witches (especially because most of the original witches are now dead with only Zell, the lead sister, surviving.)
I wasn’t a fan of this decision; Barnabus is incredibly overpowered and far too often just shakes off people’s attacks like he’s sporting an everything-proof shield, and his character is more than a little simplistic; just a demon in human form looking for redemption (I think it’s not exactly clear.) And, to make the Barnabus character a little less interesting, he’s just a pawn of warring angelic and satanic forces.
All this has moved in to be the driving force of Kiss Me, Satan now, which I really don’t care for. It robs the story of its more grounded crime stylings in exchange for this weird, almost spy-esque vibe to it, and not in a good way. It creates clashing aesthetics, is my point. When Kiss Me, Satan started, the central aesthetics of 80s gonzo-macho hedonism and 70s exploitation meshed well with the sleazy Miami Vice-esque story and setting, all of which was complemented by cool and unique character designs that complemented the old school spook stylings for the supernatural elements (witches, vampires, werewolves, wizards etc.) But those same visual cues of sleazy neon coke-infused hedonism just don’t gel with the idea of Barnabus as some kind of black-bag operative for heaven in an ongoing angels-and-demons conflict.
There are some elements of the focus shift that work— like the design for the agents of hell as tuxedo-wearing casino types (they look like Black Jack dealers) works really well but it feels out of place in the setting. It’s just all too much of a tonal twist in direction, Barnabus and his story aren’t terrible; they just need their own comic and story to be explored and not just these 2 last issues of someone else’s comic.
The actual plot of Kiss Me, Satan #5 is that Barnabus gets orders from a little cherub in a pin stripe suit (again cool visual design that clashes with previous iconography and tonal stylings) to go steal the baby that was the center of some big secret that the comic never revealed (they might’ve revealed it in issue 1, but as I wasn’t able to read that one and there are no text recaps anywhere, I couldn’t tell you.) So most of this issue is just a big fight scene, as Zell and Barnabus storm the werewolf mafia complex, though there is a completely gratuitous beginning action sequence where Zell goes to a church for a really lame reason and fights a priest and a nun like this is actually Hitman Absolution.
As I’ve mentioned before, the problem with fight scenes now that Barnabus is the series focus is that he’s too powerful; he shrugs off every attack and there’s no sense of tension to be found. This is compounded by the character’s weak personality, as his narration often comes off bland and generic, especially compared to some of the villainous characters he’s fighting against, who have way more personality and are far more interesting.
It’s probably good that Kiss Me, Satan ended with this issue, because you can really start to see where the seams are coming apart, and not just in the writing, but in the artwork, too. The visual designs are still excellent (like we see Barnabus’s full demon form revealed and it’s pretty spectacular), but the panel set-up can actually be really jumbled and confusing; there are a lot of scenes with smaller focus panels or split up small boxes to showcase zoom in events like we’ll see a large open room with smaller panels peppered overtop of where various goons are and it all just gets very confusing especially when they bring in staggered bullet time paneling.
These last two issues of Kiss Me, Satan feel like a testament to the risk of having too many ideas for your own good, because individually I think there’s a lot of potential to both of the story of the witches and Barnabus’s story, but when they’re smushed together like this, it just doesn’t gel into a cohesive whole.
Barnabus is a flat new protagonist compared to the more interesting Zell from previous issues, the villains have more personality than the hero, the fight scenes lack tension and don’t even have enough goofy balls-out awesome moments to justify themselves, and the visual aesthetics and styles clash with the new story concepts and character designs. I can’t say I don’t recommend the issue if you’ve been reading the story, because it does offer some measure of closure and completion to the story; it’s just a shame that we couldn’t have had a stronger finish to this series. Kiss Me, Satan deserved better.